1. Main
  2. Learn
  3. Industry
  4. Science, Technologies

Japan to send plutonium cache to US this weekend

Japan to send plutonium cache to US this weekend Japan to send plutonium cache to US this weekend

Japan will return a huge cache of plutonium -- enough to produce 50 nuclear bombs -- to the United States starting this weekend as part of a bilateral storage deal, Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear campaigners said Friday, AFP reports.

The stockpile, provided by the US, Britain and France decades ago for research purposes, has caused disquiet among anti-nuclear groups and neighbouring countries given Japan has the know-how to produce a nuclear weapon -- even as it adamantly chooses not to.

Some 331 kilogrammes (730 pounds) of plutonium will be sent by "an armed British nuclear transport ship... under armed escort to the United States," said a joint statement by five groups, including Greenpeace.

The departure from a port north of Tokyo "could occur as early as Sunday," Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace, told AFP by telephone.

The shipment, which comes ahead of a nuclear security summit in Washington from late this month, is meant to underscore both countries' commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and is part of a 2014 deal.

"The material will be disposed of in the United States," Tsukasa Yamamura, an official in the nuclear nonproliferation technology section at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, told AFP Friday, referring to the deal.

But the campaigners condemned the shipment as a "dangerous distraction" from what they said is a far larger cache of roughly 10 tonnes of plutonium in Japan.

"Hailing a shipment of hundreds of kilogrammes of plutonium as a triumph for nuclear security, while ignoring over nine tonnes of the weapons material stockpiled in Japan and in a region of rising tensions, is not just a failure of nuclear non-proliferation and security policy but a dangerous delusion," Burnie said.

A Japanese official in January confirmed the amount of plutonium to be sent to the US and said that preparations for the shipment were under way.

But Yamamura declined to elaborate.

"We can't comment on details such as the departure date and route for security reasons," he said.

It will take two months for the ship to arrive at a nuclear facility in South Carolina, the campaign groups said.

Japan traditionally has relied heavily on nuclear technology for its energy needs, though the aftermath of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster led to all of the country's reactors being shut down, with only a few coming back on line so far. 

In 2006, then foreign minister Taro Aso sparked neighbouring countries' concern and anger after saying Japan, a scientific superpower with numerous Nobel prizes to its credit, could produce nuclear arms though opts not to. 

Nobel prizewinner proposes a new city in KZ
New abnormal snowfalls expected in Kazakhstan
Huge glacier retreat triggered in 1940s
Hyperloop construction begins in Las Vegas
"Moonlight" to top Spirit Awards nominations
Oil prices fall due to investors uncertainty
New dwarf galaxy discovered around Milky Way
Kanat Islam becomes a top ten WBO boxer
World oil prices continue to rise
Kazakhstan expects warming - Kazhydromet
Merkel to seek fourth term as chancellor
Sale of Tintin drawings set to break records
US, EU stocks fall as markets focus on dollar
Pacific leaders urged to defend free trade
EU warns eight nations on budget deficit
Universiade-2017: Athletic Village is ready
Bob Dylan can't make Nobel ceremony
Messi will never leave Barca - club president
Google, Facebook take aim at 'fake' news
Aerosmith announces Europe 'farewell' tour
Putin, Trump to normalise US-Russia ties
At least 10 hurt in southern Turkey blast
6.2 quake hits western Japan
Tokyo, the megacity that works
OPEC agrees shock oil output cut
Israeli ex-president and Nobel laureate Peres dies
Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook
32,000 arrested in Turkey coup probe
Youth to the fore as Milan fashion week opens
Xenophobia threatening peace in eastern Germany
Four-in-10 Japanese are virgins: poll
Sweden re-militarises Baltic island of Gotland
China to launch second space laboratory: Xinhua
More than a billion stars mapped in Milky Way: ESA
Boxing: Golovkin eyes Saunders after stopping Brook
Kazakhstan shifts PM to security chief
Oil prices gain despite rising OPEC supply forecast
US to give Philippines military planes
Singapore wages war on Zika-bearing mosquitoes
Italy quake death toll nears 250
Viral photos add fuel to French burkini debate
18 dead as Italy struck by powerful quake
Japan's first lady visits Pearl Harbor
Pokemon's a no-go on Bangkok's roads
July was Earth's hottest month in modern times
Pakistan rock climbers scale new heights